John of Worcester
John of Worcester was an English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

 and chronicler
English historians in the Middle Ages
Historians of England in the Middle Ages helped to lay the groundwork for modern historical historiography, providing vital accounts of the early history of England, Wales and Normandy, its cultures, and revelations about the historians themselves....

. He is usually held to be the author of the Chronicon ex chronicis.

Chronicon ex chronicis

The Chronicon ex chronicis is a world history which begins with the creation and ends in 1140. The chronological framework of the Chronicon was provided by the chronicle of Marianus Scotus
Marianus Scotus
Marianus Scotus , was an Irish monk and chronicler , was an Irishman by birth, and called Máel Brigte, or Devotee of St...

 (d. 1082). A great deal of additional material, particularly relating to English history, was grafted onto it.


The greater part of the work, up to 1117 or 1118, was formerly attributed to the monk Florence of Worcester
Florence of Worcester
Florence of Worcester , known in Latin as Florentius, was a monk of Worcester, who played some part in the production of the Chronicon ex chronicis, a Latin world chronicle which begins with the creation and ends in 1140....

on the basis of the entry for his death under the annal of 1118, which credits his skill and industry for making the chronicle such a prominent work. In this view, the other Worcester monk, John, merely wrote the final part of the work. However, there are two main objections against the ascription to Florence. First, there is no change of style in the Chronicon after Florence's death, and second, certain sections before 1118 rely to some extent on the Historia novorum of Eadmer of Canterbury, which was completed sometime in 1121 x 1124.

The prevalent view today is that John of Worcester was the principal author and compiler. He is explicitly named as the author of two entries for 1128 and 1138, and two manuscripts (CCC MS 157 and the chronicula) were written in his hand. He was seen working on it at the behest of Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester, when the Anglo-Norman chronicler Orderic Vitalis
Orderic Vitalis
Orderic Vitalis was an English chronicler of Norman ancestry who wrote one of the great contemporary chronicles of 11th and 12th century Normandy and Anglo-Norman England. The modern biographer of Henry I of England, C...

 visited Worcester:
Ioannes Wigornensis a puero monachus, natione Anglicus, moribus et eruditione uenerandus, in his quæ Mariani Scotti cronicis adiecit, de rege Guillelmo et de rebus quæ sub eo uel sub filiis eius Guillelmo Rufo et Henrico usque hodie contigerunt honeste deprompsit. [...] Quem prosecutus Iohannes acta fere centum annorum contexuit, iussuque uenerabilis Wlfstani pontificis et monachi supradictis cronicis inseruit in quibus multa de Romanis et Francis et Alemannis aliisque gentibus quæ agnouit [...]. "John, an Englishman by birth who entered the monastery of Worcester as a boy and won great repute for his learning and piety, continued the chronicle of Marianus Scotus
Marianus Scotus
Marianus Scotus , was an Irish monk and chronicler , was an Irishman by birth, and called Máel Brigte, or Devotee of St...

 and carefully recorded the events of William's reign and of his sons William Rufus and Henry up to the present. [...] John, at the command of the venerable Wulfstan bishop and monk [d. 1095], added to these chronicles [i.e. of Marianus Scotus] events of about a hundred years, by inserting a brief and valuable summary of many deeds of the Romans and Franks, Germans and other peoples whom he knew [...]."


The Chronicon survives in five manuscripts (and a fragment on a single leaf):
  • MS 157 (Oxford, Corpus Christi College
    Corpus Christi College, Oxford
    Corpus Christi College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom...

    ). The principal manuscript, working copy used by John.
  • MS 502 (Dublin, Trinity College).
  • MS 42 (Lambeth Palace Library).
  • MS Bodley 297 (Oxford, Bodleian Library
    Bodleian Library
    The Bodleian Library , the main research library of the University of Oxford, is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, and in Britain is second in size only to the British Library...

  • MS 92 (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College
    Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
    Corpus Christi College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. It is notable as the only college founded by Cambridge townspeople: it was established in 1352 by the Guilds of Corpus Christi and the Blessed Virgin Mary...


In addition, there is the chronicula, a minor chronicle based on the Chronicon proper: MS 503 (Dublin, Trinity College), written by John up to 1123.

Sources for English history

For the body of material dealing with early English history, John is believed to have used a number of sources, some of which are now lost:
  • unknown version(s) of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
    Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
    The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a collection of annals in Old English chronicling the history of the Anglo-Saxons. The original manuscript of the Chronicle was created late in the 9th century, probably in Wessex, during the reign of Alfred the Great...

    , possibly in Latin translation. John may have shared a lost source with William of Malmesbury
    William of Malmesbury
    William of Malmesbury was the foremost English historian of the 12th century. C. Warren Hollister so ranks him among the most talented generation of writers of history since Bede, "a gifted historical scholar and an omnivorous reader, impressively well versed in the literature of classical,...

    , whose Gesta regum anglorum includes similar material not found in other works.
  • Bede
    Bede , also referred to as Saint Bede or the Venerable Bede , was a monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, today part of Sunderland, England, and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow , both in the Kingdom of Northumbria...

    , Historia Ecclesiastica (up to 731)
  • Asser
    Asser was a Welsh monk from St David's, Dyfed, who became Bishop of Sherborne in the 890s. About 885 he was asked by Alfred the Great to leave St David's and join the circle of learned men whom Alfred was recruiting for his court...

    , Vita Ælfredi
  • Hagiographical works on tenth/eleventh-century saints
    • Lives of St Dunstan by author 'B', Adelard and Osbern
    • Byrhtferth
      Byrhtferth was a priest and monk who lived at Ramsey Abbey. He had a deep impact on the intellectual life of later Anglo-Saxon England and wrote many computistic, hagiographic, and historical works. He was a leading man of science and best known as the author of many different works...

      , Life of St. Oswald
      Oswald of Worcester
      Oswald of Worcester was Archbishop of York from 972 to his death in 992. He was of Danish ancestry, but brought up by his uncle, Oda, who sent him to France to the abbey of Fleury to become a monk. After a number of years at Fleury, Oswald returned to England at the request of his uncle, who died...

    • Osbern of Canterbury, Life of St Ælfheah
      Ælfheah , officially remembered by the name Alphege within some churches, and also called Elphege, Alfege, or Godwine, was an Anglo-Saxon Bishop of Winchester, later Archbishop of Canterbury. He became an anchorite before being elected abbot of Bath Abbey...

  • Eadmer
    Eadmer, or Edmer , was an English historian, theologian, and ecclesiastic. He is known for being a contemporary biographer of his contemporary archbishop and companion, Saint Anselm, in his Vita Anselmi, and for his Historia novorum in Anglia, which presents the public face of Anselm...

     of Canterbury, Historia novorum (1066–1122)
  • accounts by contemporaries and local knowledge.

Chronicon ex chronicis: editions and translations

  • Darlington, Reginald R. and P. McGurk (eds.), P. McGurk and Jennifer Bray (trs.). The Chronicle of John of Worcester: The Annals from 450-1066. Vol 2. Oxford Medieval Texts. Oxford: 1995.
  • McGurk, P. (ed. and tr.). The Chronicle of John of Worcester: The Annals from 1067 to 1140 with The Gloucester Interpolations and The Continuation to 1141. Vol 3. OMT. Oxford, 1998.
  • Thorpe, Benjamin (ed.). Florentii Wigorniensis monachi chronicon ex chronicis. 2 vols. London, 1848-9. Download available from Google Books
  • Stevenson, J. (tr.). Church Historians of England. 8 vols: vol. 2.1. London, 1855. 171-372.
  • Forester, Thomas (tr.). The Chronicle of Florence of Worcester. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1854. Available from Google Books.
  • Weaver, J. R. H., ed. (1908) The Chronicle of John of Worcester, 1118-1140: being the continuation of the 'Chronicon ex chronicis' of Florence of Worcester. Oxford: Clarendon Press

Further reading

  • Brett, Martin. "John of Worcester and his contemporaries." In The Writing of History in the Middle Ages: Essays Presented to R.W. Southern, ed. by R.H.C. Davis and J.M. Wallace Hadrill. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981. 101-26.
  • Brett, Martin, "John, monk of Worcester." In The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England, ed. Michael Lapidge, et al. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999. ISBN 0-631-22492-0
  • Gransden, Antonia. Historical writing in England c. 550 to 1307. Vol 1. London, 1974. 143–8.
  • Orderic Vitalis, Historia Ecclesiastica, ed. and tr. Marjorie Chibnall
    Marjorie Chibnall
    Marjorie Morgan MacCallum Chibnall is an English historian, medievalist and Latin translator.Born at Atcham in Shropshire in 1915, she is an Emeritus Fellow of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge , and had previously taught at the University of Southampton and the University of Aberdeen as well...

    , The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis. 6 volumes. Oxford Medieval Texts. Oxford, 1968-1980. ISBN 0-19-820220-2.
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